Reflective Practice: Making a commitment to ongoing learning

Whether reflective practice takes place ‘in the moment’ or ‘later’, with a colleague or alone, in this all-time favourite blog, Dr Anne Kennedy draws attention to the crucial role of ongoing learning, providing examples, strategies and tools for educators. 

Often when discussing the national Early Years Learning Framework Principle on reflective practice, we overlook the initial words in the Principle: “Ongoing learning and reflective practice” (EYLF, 2009, p. 13). This part of the Principle is a reminder that engaging in reflective practice is about educators making a commitment to ongoing learning and being a member of a learning community (NQS, QA 7.)

What do we mean by reflective practice?

Reflective practice can be undertaken individually or with a group or team and can be practised in the moment or it can happen later by taking the time to think about an event or some aspect of practice. Educators can reflect with colleagues, children, families and other professionals. Reflective practice means:

  • thinking deeply about an interest, issue, event, or practice from different perspectives
  • being honest about all aspects of practice including elements that are positive and those that are of concern
  • monitoring pedagogy and curriculum as part of a cycle of continuous improvement
  • listening to and learning from others
  • engaging in an ongoing process and not a ‘one-off’ activity.

Why is it important to be a reflective educator?

The National Quality Standard (NQS, QAs 1 & 4) and the EYLF recognise that reflective educators are more likely to:

  • develop greater self awareness about the values and beliefs informing their practice and decision making
  • understand the ethical nature of their work
  • examine the theories underpinning practice
  • engage in a continuous cycle of inquiry and improvement
  • challenge taken for granted practices
  • identify and take action about gaps in their professional knowledge.

Research shows that reflective practice makes a positive difference for children, families and communities by improving the overall quality of educators’ work (Marbina et al; 2010).

How can we practice reflection?

One way to support or improve reflective practice is to use an inquiry cycle process:

Alert and aware: Being alert or aware of something that seems worthy of thinking about more deeply either individually or with others, is the first step in reflective practice. Both positive events and things that worry educators can occur every day in an education and care setting, but not everything that happens requires deeper thinking. Support from more experienced educators can help others to recognise when they need to be alert and aware.

Analysis:  After becoming aware of something that is interesting or concerning, reflective educators analyse the matter by reflecting on it in order to gain a deeper understanding. Gaining others’ perspective, asking ‘why’ questions and undertaking reading related to the issue supports the analysis process.

Action:  Reflective practice requires some type of response or action. Understanding an issue or something of professional interest more clearly helps educators to take appropriate action either collectively or individually and often in collaboration with children and families or other professionals.

AssessEducators and other stakeholders such as families and children assess the outcomes from the actions taken as a result of the reflection process to ensure the intentional actions are improving practice and outcomes. Informal assessment of the outcomes could include checking with families or children about how they are experiencing the changes and documenting their responses to inform further decision-making.


A reflective educator would be ‘on alert’ or aware if a toddler in the group who usually separates readily from his mum found it very difficult one morning. While the separation difficulty might be a ‘one-off’ behaviour, it is something worth noticing, reflecting on and discussing with others including the child’s mum.

Reflecting with mum on why the child found the separation difficult that particular morning might reveal that they had a very late night because of a family celebration, or that the child’s dad has gone interstate on business. If the child’s separation difficulties were due to the father’s absence, the educators could use a photo of the child’s dad to reassure the toddler that dad is away but will be coming home soon. Providing close physical contact and using comforting, reassuring words each morning would also help to reduce the child’s anxiousness about his dad’s absence.

Sometimes parents and educators might be unsure about the reason for a child’s particular behaviour or response. The action in that instance would be to continue to be alert and to reflect on what is happening in order to understand the issue more clearly.

Reflective practice strategies, tools and resources

There is a range of strategies, tools and resources to support individual and group reflective practice.

Early Childhood Australia professional resources such as the ECA Learning Hub modules are an excellent resource for supporting reflecting on practice with others or individually.

Keeping a journal or notebook supports documenting the reflective practice process. Journal notes might include what happened, why, who was involved, key points from discussions, actions that were taken and the outcomes.

Setting aside time at every staff meeting for reflecting on one aspect of practice and planning actions develops a culture of inquiry in a service or setting. The discussion and decisions from these team reflections can be incorporated into the Quality Improvement Plan (QIP).

Reflect with children every day by using questions that respect their ideas and learning: “What did you learn today?”  “What do you want to learn more about?” “How do you know that?” “What makes you think that?”

Support educational leaders’ capacity to lead or support reflective practice by providing professional learning opportunities focused on reflective practice and through coaching or mentoring by a more experienced leader.


Reflective practice supports ongoing professional learning and development by building on educators’ strengths and skills, and providing deeper understanding of the complexities inherent in their roles and responsibilities. Educators who enact a commitment to reflective practice and taking action make a positive difference to the quality of the education experience and to improving outcomes for children and families.


Marbina, L; Church, A; & Tayler, C. (2010) VEYLDF Evidence Paper Practice Principle 8: Reflective Practice. DEECD:

This article was originally published in Every Child Magazine


If you’re looking to further develop your reflective practice strategies, look no further than ECA’s newly designed online Communities of Practice program for early childhood professionals at all stages of their careers centred around STEM and play. Find out more and enrol here

Reflective Practice: A handbook for early childhood educators (2nd ed.)

By Liz Rouse

This revised edition develops the subject more thoroughly, and includes three new chapters: Reflecting on practice for meeting the professional standards; Reflecting on practice and the educational leader; and Reflective practice and managing change.

The book takes educators on a journey that will help them to gain a greater understanding of reflective practice – now a key component of the training for the early childhood educator – as it applies to the early childhood professional. Purchase your copy on the ECA Shop here.

Anne Kennedy

Dr Anne Kennedy works as a consultant, trainer, writer and researcher in early childhood education. She was a member of the small writing team led by Charles Sturt University which developed Belonging, Being and Becoming, The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia. Since the launch of the Early Years Learning Framework she has provided training for early childhood educators across the country.

23 thoughts on “Reflective Practice: Making a commitment to ongoing learning”

    Muna Hasan says:

    Great article.

    Elizabeth Chalfa says:

    Learning Hub are an excellent resource for support of children and practicing with others.

    Anna D'Costa says:

    Have passion in working with children with quality education, and further children’s interests.

    Take into consideration the five important principles while working with children.

    Anna says:

    Up to date documentation.

    Strive to give each child an opportunity to enhance on their
    interests & learning.

    Jessie says:

    Great article

    Lily says:

    Building strong relationships with children, family & community

    kandil aziz ali says:

    Great article. Sparks deeper thoughts while reflecting on interactions with children.

    Disna says:

    Useful Article, gained lots of information to provide a opportunities for children to develop a foundation for learning and for children to become successful learners.

    Patricia Nathan says:

    Provides an in depth understanding of the educator’s role in children’s learning and an onging improvement to developing skills in practice.

    Shahnaz Bahrami, Ghasrchami says:

    Thank you very good and educational information and lesson

    Mau says:

    Very good understanding of how important educator role’s to help and support children development

    shabnam says:

    That was good and easy for me to understand

    Carmel says:

    Great read ?

    sakshi says:

    It is very easy to understand, thanks for the wonderful information.

    Widia T says:

    great article.

    TERESA says:

    thanks for all your help it is a great information.

    D.Deece says:

    Great article

    fony says:

    thank to all your useful information

    Wendy says:

    Very interesting.

    Jackelyn Lucero says:

    Very inspiring article and full of important ideas to take on board on daily teaching practice.

    Deanne says:


    Sheryl Kaye Madrid says:

    Very intersting

    Sheryl Kate Madrid says:

    Very interesting

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